New Year’s Resolutions: Overcoming Psychological Obstacles

New Year’s Resolutions: Overcoming Psychological Obstacles

Around this time of the year, in addition to making plans for ringing in the New Year, many people shift gears and start making a list of New Year’s resolutions for self-improvement and advancement. For most, the New Year promises to be full of hope and dedication to turn a new leaf, accomplish a long desired goal, or just find ways to make life more fulfilling and happy! But like many promises we make to ourselves, we often have difficulty sticking to our plan long enough to achieve our goals. Sadly, most people set themselves up by establishing unattainable or unachievable long-term goals such as achieving the “perfect” body, finding a dream man/woman, major financial or career changes, etc. Despite having the best intentions, when things don’t go as planned, we are left with disappointment and frustration. Many of us end up abandoning our resolutions altogether.

Here is a list of common New Year’s Resolutions and some basic tips to get you started on the path to personal and life change.

Common New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Weight Loss and Fitness
  • Quit Smoking
  • Personal and Professional Advancement
  • Financial Security
  • Spending More Time with Family and Friends
  • Travel More
  • Decrease Stress
  • Volunteer or New Hobby
  • Drink Less


In general, goals are much more manageable if you have a realistic expectation of the work involved and the amount of time it will take. Break your goal into smaller steps. Don’t shoot for the stars or at least don’t expect it to happen overnight (“slow and steady wins the race” seems applicable).

  • Be specific, setting vague-open ended goals increases the likelihood of falling short and fast!
  • Organize and develop an action plan (which decreases anxiety, increases confidence and you’re more likely to stick to it).
  • Be realistic- don’t set goals that are not reasonable for you to achieve.
  • Keep track of your progress, not only is it a good idea but also a good motivator.
  • Reward yourself for successfully completing each step towards your final goal.
  • Share your progress with friends and family. Receiving praise from others can also add to your motivation.
  • Set time limits on achieving certain steps towards your goal.
  • Write down all the positive ways this goal will improve your life.

For example, if you would like to decrease how much you spend on food, here are some ways to develop a reasonable, specific, and time sensitive goal.

  • Calculate approximately how much you spent on food (groceries, takeout, and restaurants) in 2017.
  • Set a specific budget goal on how much you would like to decrease spending. For example, decide you will aim to spend $150 less a month. Earmark that saved money for something you want or need, such as saving towards your dream to take a Caribbean cruise for next Christmas.
  • Develop an action plan:
    • Packing your lunch 3 out of 5 days for work.
    • Commit to eating leftovers once a week rather than giving in to a craving for Chinese takeout.
    • Plan a menu, write a shopping list and stick to it.
    • Order only one alcoholic drink at a restaurant.
    • Eat at a restaurant only twice a week instead of your usual 4 times a week.

For many, achieving resolutions related to personal/self-improvement, professional advancement, stress management, time management and/or getting more organized can require more than a few quick simple tips. Anxiety and psychological symptoms can get in the way of accomplishing changes in behavior, even with the best of intentions and commitment. Whether someone wants to get married and start a family, ask for a raise, seek a promotion or career change, or declutter their home, anxiety can often play a big interfering role in the action plan. For example, social anxiety may get in the way of asking your boss for a meeting to discuss a raise or poor body image may make it difficult to shop for a new wardrobe for job interviews. Suffering from anxiety can be a deterrent from taking the first steps in even the simplest goals in life. Our New Year’s Resolution blog series will examine common forms of anxiety, how they interfere with attaining goals, and tips on how to manage the symptoms so you can start the path to a successful 2018 and make positive and lasting changes in your life.

Stay tuned for our second in the series featuring social anxiety.